Five Stories That Matter in Michigan This Week – January 12, 2024

  1. Cannabis Regulatory Agency Announces $1 Million Social Equity Grant Program

Michigan’s Cannabis Regulatory Agency (CRA) announced a $1 million grant program to applicants who have a recreational marijuana license, have eligible Social Equity Program participants, and participate in the CRA’s “Social Equity All-Star Program.”

Why it Matters: The program is intended to encourage participation in the industry by people from communities that have been disproportionately impacted by marijuana prohibition and enforcement.

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  1. Fraser Trebilcock Welcomes Danielle Lofton to the Firm

We are pleased to announce the hiring of attorney Danielle Lofton who will work primarily in the firm’s Lansing office, focusing her practice on insurance defense.

Why it Matters: Ms. Lofton represents clients with personal injury claims including no-fault cases for several years. She has routinely secured early dismissals through successful motions and negotiated favorable settlements for her clients. Learn more.

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  1. Department of Labor Issues New Rule on Independent Contractors

This week, the US Department of Labor issued a new rule modifying its analysis for determining whether a worker is an employee, or an independent contractor under the Fair Labor Standards Act. The final rule is effective on March 11, 2024.

Why it Matters: We previously reported on the Department of Labor publishing a Notice of Proposed Rulemaking regarding classification of employee or independent contractor under the FLSA. Under this final rule effective on March 11, 2024, it will provide clearer guidance for employers and how they determine their workers’ classifications, and further protect employees from misclassification.

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  1. Fraser Trebilcock Attorney Andrew J. Moore Elected to Board of Directors of Catholic Bar Association

We are pleased to announce that attorney ​Andrew J. Moore has been elected to the Board of Directors for the Catholic Bar Association, a national bar association with members in all 50 states. “I am honored to be elected to the Board of Directors, and I look forward to continuing the mission of the Catholic Bar Association,” said Andrew Moore.

Why it Matters: Andrew focuses his practice on general litigation matters, insurance defense, estate and trust administration, real estate transactions, family law, and criminal defense. His experience covers a range of practice areas, from out of court matters such as assisting clients in estate planning and business and tax matters to representing clients at trial in insurance, divorce, and criminal defense proceedings. He also serves on the Board of Directors of the Lansing Catholic Lawyers Guild. Read more.

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  1. Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission Required to Redraw Seven House Districts

A three-judge panel ordered this week that the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission redraw seven state House districts by February 2nd, after it was ruled unconstitutional.

Why it Matters: Last year, a group of voters sued the Independent Citizens Redistricting Commission alleging that the Commission had violated the federal Voting Rights Act by drawing maps that impacted black voters’ opportunity to elect their preferred candidates.

Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Cannabis Law | Sean Gallagher
Insurance Law | Danielle Lofton
Labor, Employment & Civil Rights | David Houston
Litigation | Andrew Moore
Election Law

Five Stories that Matter in Michigan This Week – August 19, 2022

  1. Insurance Agents Who Make a Material Error on Policy Application Now May be Liable after Michigan Court of Appeals Ruling

On August 4, 2022, the Michigan Court of Appeals ruled in Holman v. Farm Bureau Gen. Ins. Co. of Michigan, No. 357473, that an insurance agent who makes a material error on a policy application may be liable.

Why it Matters: This case concerns the scope of an agent’s duty in preparing a policy application for a customer, and makes clear that an agent can be held liable for mistakes. While the court noted that a plaintiff’s duty to review the application could be taken into account when assessing fault, that does not bar a negligence claim against a defendant/agent.

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  1. Will Electric Vehicle Incentives Under Inflation Reduction Act Actually Hurt Sales?

The Inflation Reduction Act, which President Biden signed into law on Tuesday, August 16, includes billions in incentives for electric vehicle adoption, including $7,500 tax credits for EV purchases. However, many automotive manufacturers are not happy with the rules the bill imposes for vehicles to qualify for the credits.

Why it Matters: Opponents of the new guidelines argue that pricing, sourcing and manufacturing rules, which require significant domestic sourcing of raw materials and manufacturing, are too aggressive and could result in most EVs not qualifying for the federal incentives—therefore stifling sales for many manufacturers.

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  1. Court Ruling Prohibits Discrimination on the Basis of Sexual Orientation and Gender Identity Under Michigan Law

The Michigan Supreme Court recently ruled that discrimination on the basis of sexual orientation and gender identity is discrimination prohibited by the Michigan Elliott-Larsen Civil Rights Act (the “ELCRA”) in the case of Rouch World, LLC, v. Department of Civil Rights.

Why it Matters: Employers with 15 or more employees were already prohibited by federal law from discriminating on the basis of gender identity or sexual orientation under Title VII. However, small employers in Michigan are now also subject to the same rules.

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  1. Citizens for Better Social Equality Ballot Initiative Struck Down By Detroit Election Commission

A ballot initiative aimed at replacing the City of Detroit’s current marijuana ordinance was struck down by the Detroit Election Commission after it was determined the initiative did not have enough signatures required to secure a ballot spot under the Michigan Regulation and Taxation of Marijuana Act.

Why it Matters: The group behind the proposed initiative, Citizens for Better Equality, were fighting an uphill battle as the Detroit City Council vehemently opposed the initiative and the city’s Law Department had stated that the group does not have enough valid signatures. This is the latest development in a turbulent time for the city as they have yet to establish and begin selling recreational cannabis. Fraser Trebilcock cannabis attorneys will continue to monitor the situation for updates.

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  1. Michigan Job Growth Projected Through 2030

Earlier this week, the Michigan Department of Technology, Management & Budget projected that Michigan’s job growth through 2030 would be 8.8%, or an estimated 374,930 jobs.

Why it Matters: Officials looking at industries who are seeing the highest growth rates are ones that are the result of the recovery from the pandemic. While it is observed that leisure and hospitality industries will lead the pack in terms of growth, other industries such as farming, fishing, and forestry, are at projected to decline.


Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Insurance Law | Emily Vanderlaan

Energy, Utilities & Telecommunication | Michael Ashton

Labor & Employment | Aaron Davis

Cannabis Law | Sean Gallagher

Business & Tax | Ed Castellani

Five Stories that Matter in Michigan This Week – August 5, 2022

  1. August 2 Michigan Primary Election Results

The outcome of the August 2 Republican primary for Governor saw candidate Tudor Dixon prevail. In the November general election, she will face incumbent Governor Gretchen Whitmer who ran unopposed. In the newly drawn 3rd congressional district, Republican John Gibbs defeated incumbent Peter Meijer.

Why it Matters: As November and the general election gets closer, stay tuned for more insights as Fraser Trebilcock’s election law team will be closely monitoring the action.

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  1. MEDC to Make $237 Million Available to Help Michigan Small Businesses

The Michigan Economic Development Corporation announced that Michigan has been approved for up to $237 million in State Small Business Credit Initiative (SSBCI) funding from the U.S. Department of Treasury.

Why it Matters: Small businesses impacted by the COVID-19 pandemic can apply for funds through private lenders and the MEDC would back the loans through the SSBCI program. Learn more on the topic here.

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  1. Ballot Initiative Aims to Increase Minimum Wage Targets 2024 Ballot

The Raise the Wage MI ballot initiative proposal aims to raise Michigan’s hourly minimum wage to $15 over the course of five years. The organizers behind the ballot initiative are reported to have secured more than 610,000 signatures and delivered them to Michigan officials last week.

Why it Matters: The issuance of a stay until February 19, 2023 follows the ruling by the Michigan Court of Claims stating that the state legislature’s adoption and alteration of a 2018 ballot initiative that would have raised minimum wage to $12 by 2022 was unconstitutional. This ruling has been appealed, but even if it gets overturned, Michigan may still see an increase to minimum wage if the Raise the Wage MI initiative is passed.

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  1. New Law Allows Non-Profit Corporation to be a Member of Limited Liability Company

Senate Bill 926 was recently signed into law by Governor Whitmer, which changes the definition of a person in the limited liability company act, allowing nonprofit corporations to be members of limited liability companies (“LLC”).

Why it Matters: Michigan now joins other states that allow nonprofits to create LLCs that do not involve any financial gain or profit to perform certain functions while still maintaining their nonprofit status.

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  1. Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee Approves Texting While Driving Bills

The Michigan Senate Judiciary Committee approved a package of bills expanding the scope of Michigan’s texting while driving laws, which would make requirements more stringent and penalties for violations more costly. The bills explicitly address social media use and live streaming.

Why it Matters: Distracted driving is dangerous. In 2020, according to the National Highway Traffic Safety Association, 3,142 people were killed in motor vehicle crashes involving distracted drivers. Distracted driving is also costly for drivers, as those who violate distracted driving laws tend to see their insurance rates shoot up.


Related Practice Groups and Professionals

Election Law | Garett Koger

Business & Tax | Robert D. Burgee

Business & Tax | Ed Castellani

Insurance Defense | Emily Vanderlaan

Federal Court Rules in Favor of Restaurant Group for Insurance Coverage Related to Loss of Business Income Due to COVID-19 Shutdown Orders

In one of a series of closely watched cases concerning the extent of insurance coverage available to businesses who have suffered damages as a result of the COVID-19 crisis, a federal district court recently ruled in favor of a group of restaurants that were ordered closed by government authorities.

The U.S. District Court for the Northern District of Ohio ruled in favor of the policyholders on cross-motions for summary judgment in Henderson Road Restaurant Systems, Inc., dba Hyde Park Grille, et al. v. Zurich American Ins. Co., No. 1:20 CV 1239, 2021 WL 168422 (N.D. Ohio Jan. 19, 2021). In the Henderson case, the court ruled that business interruption coverage was available to the restaurant group under a policy issued by Zurich American Insurance Company (“Zurich”).

The property policy at issue provided coverage for suspension of operations caused by order of civil authority or a government order that prohibited access to the covered premises. The policy required that the suspension result from “direct physical loss of or damage to” property located within one mile from the covered premises.

The parties disagreed as to whether such “direct physical loss of” or “damage to” the policyholders’ restaurants occurred under the circumstances. Ultimately, the court sided with the policyholders about the meaning of the phrase “direct physical loss of” the real property, construing what it found to be ambiguities in the language in the policyholders’ favor.

The policyholders argued that they “lost their real property” when state shutdown orders were issued that prevented the properties from being used for their intended purposes as dine-in restaurants. Since the policy language was susceptible to this interpretation, and ambiguities are strictly construed against the insurer in Ohio, the court ruled that Zurich was obligated to provide business income coverage since the policy language could be interpreted in the policyholders’ favor.

The court rejected Zurich’s argument that coverage shouldn’t be available because the restaurants could still conduct carry-out business, finding it unreasonable to expect that the restaurants, which previously relied almost exclusively on in-person dining, should be expected to shift their businesses to a carry-out model. The court also rejected Zurich’s assertion that the policy required a permanent loss.

Zurich next argued the applicability of two exclusions to coverage. First, Zurich argued that a microorganism exclusion precluded coverage. However, the court rejected the microorganism exclusion’s application, finding there was no coronavirus at the restaurants themselves and that “it was clearly the government’s orders that caused the closures,” not the coronavirus. Moreover, the court noted that the parties had stipulated that “none of Plaintiffs’ Insured Premises were closed as a result of the known or confirmed presence of SARS-CoV-2 or COVID-19 at any of the Insured Premises.”

Zurich also argued that the policy’s loss-of-use exclusion should exclude coverage. The court rejected this argument, as well, ruling that “the Loss of Use exclusion would vitiate the Loss of Business Income coverage.”

We will continue to monitor and provide updates on other court decisions happening across the country on the extent of insurance coverage for losses related to COVID-19. If you have any questions about these issues, please contact Thad Morgan, Fraser Trebilcock’s Litigation Department Chair.


Morgan, Thaddeus.jpgThaddeus E. Morgan is a shareholder with Fraser Trebilcock and formerly served as President of the firm. Thad is the firm’s Litigation Department Chair and serves as the firm’s State Capital Group voting representative. He can be reached at tmorgan@fraserlawfirm.com or (517) 377-0877.

COVID-19 and Business Interruption Coverage

COVID-19 has already caused severe disruption to the economy in every state, our nation, and the world. In the United States, government entities as well as the private sector are implementing more and more drastic measures to respond to COVID-19. While these efforts may be wise in light of the substantial public health concerns, they threaten to bring parts of the economy to a virtual halt, adversely impacting most every business and resulting in substantial losses.

These losses for businesses, coupled with having to fully close or halt nearly the vast majority of the scope of services they provide, are detrimental to the longevity of their operations. If there is an expectation that these events caused by COVID-19 would trigger their business interruption coverage, this might not be the case.

Insurance companies over nearly the past two decades have begun to quietly remove infectious diseases from the coverage, starting with the SARS epidemic in 2003, followed by the H1N1 virus in 2009.

Some states are aware of this, and are in the process of passing legislation to ensure that insurers pay businesses interruption claims during this pandemic.

While COVID-19 presents a unique and difficult situation for all of us, this presents a great opportunity to review your own business interruption coverage policy to fully understand your coverage and exceptions to such coverage.


We have created a response team to the rapidly changing COVID-19 situation, and will continue to post any new developments. You can view the page and additional resources by following the link here. In the meantime, if you have any questions, please contact your Fraser Trebilcock attorney.

Hit It!

Slow as much as you can but hit it!!!…rather than swerve.  I am referring to objects that suddenly appear in the road ahead of a driver.  This advice is often given in relation to deer darting out in front of an automobile.  Generally speaking, striking a 150 pound deer will cause much less damage and result in significantly less chance of a personal injury than veering or swerving, losing control and striking an object along the side of the road or rolling the vehicle.  (I am aware of one such incident where the driver managed to save the deer, but left the traveled portion of the road, struck a tree and broke her back in the subsequent collision.  She was off from work for more than a year.)

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Why Automobile Ownership is Important

Due to the hype about avoiding probate, many couples title their motor vehicles in both of their names.  For convenience, some couples title their vehicles in the name of the spouse who purchased them regardless of who regularly drives them.  Not paying close attention to how motor vehicles are owned can have devastating effects in Michigan.

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Impact of Health Care Reform on Group Health Plans– The First Years

Over the next several years, group health plans face significant new challenges under the lengthy and complex Health Care Reform Law. The Patient Protection and Affordable Care Act was signed into law on March 23, 2010 and then was immediately amended by the Health Care and Education Reconciliation Act on March 30th (collectively, the “Health Care Reform Law”). The Health Care Reform Law drastically changes health care as we know it and requires immediate action and ongoing analysis and restructuring of benefits in the years to come.

Continue reading Impact of Health Care Reform on Group Health Plans– The First Years